Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day

A healthy breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Here's what to eat for breakfast, and why.

Breaking – the – fast, genuinely my favorite part of the day. But not everyone loves breakfast the way we nutritionista/o’s do. Maybe you’re not hungry in the AM or you don’t have the time, but eating a healthy breakfast should be a priority, whether you’re an athlete or just health conscious.

Why breakfast? Let me use my favorite analogy. Your body is like a car, it can’t run without fuel. Whether you get up and hit the gym in the morning, or you hit snooze 17 times before sprinting into homeroom or the office, breakfast is both a physiological and psychological necessity. You sleep for, hopefully, > 7 hours. That’s by far the longest you go all day without eating (it better be, anyway, or I’ll kick you).

Yes, while you’re off dreaming about muscles or money or Alessandra Ambrosio (or about being Alessandra, whatever), you’re not burning calories at the same rate as while you’re awake. But you gotta jumpstart that hot bod into action. No, darlings, coffee does not count as a full breakfast. In general, beverages don’t count as meals (I’m talking to you, juice) unless you’re making your very own fresh fruit packed protein shake or smoothie.

Studies consistently show that kids and adults who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese, concentrate better, and do better in work/school. And until pain in the butt exams and bosses no longer exist, we need to make use of everything we can to be better than the next guy. Nothin’ wrong with a friendly little I-ate-breakfast-so-I’m-gonna-rock-this-final personal advantage.

Optimally, give yourself an hour time limit to eat breakfast after waking up. Tops 90 minutes. This is because eating breakfast refuels your glucose and protein stores after fasting overnight and jumpstarts your metabolism for the day. And guess what, Mr. wanna-be captain of the football team? Breakfast eaters also tend to have better strength and endurance. Not bad, huh?

What constitutes a healthy breakfast?? Something that incorporates all food groups – carbs, protein AND some fat. That holds true regardless if you’re male or female, 12 or 74. The perfect breakfast depends on your lifestyle and how many meals a day you eat. It must have at least 300 calories. If you are trying to increase muscle mass or playing a sport, it can easily be double or triple that.

So why do you need to cover all of your macronutrient bases? Ahhhh, good question…

Our brains and bodies run on carbohydrates, which is why they are really necessary in the AM. Whole grain breads, oatmeal, healthy cereals (like Kashi Go Lean or Fiber One) that are high in fiber – if nothing else, at least a piece of fruit -- has got to be a component.

Protein is equally as important as carbs are because it helps build and repair body tissues, helps muscles contract and relax, and produces enzymes/hormones (among many other functions). So if muscle gain is your goal, protein is your dawg. Think eggs, yogurt (especially greek), lean bacon/sausage/ham, cottage cheese, milk, lox, or beans.

Last but not least, fats are essential for vitamin absorption, for your skin, and keeping you feeling full until your next meal. Plus, they make foods taste better. So, in small amounts, nuts, nut butters, oils and avocado should definitely make an appearance in your breakfast, too.

In the nutrition plans found on OneResult, standard breakfasts include eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, and skim milk, or eggs, high fiber cereal and yogurt with berries, etc. These are ideal because they include all three macronutrients, so enter your info and check out your goal specific nutrition plan here.

While I’m stressing the importance of breakfast in general, quality is crucial, too. There are always better options than highly processed foods like Pop-Tarts or doughnuts, I don’t care where you live or how much money you have. But if you’re unable to have a real sit down, healthy, breakfast, at least get something like a breakfast bar in your tummy. Fruit + peanut butter, a protein or luna bar, a personal size cereal/oatmeal with skim milk, or yogurt and a banana… We all know it’s up there on the lists of awkward AND miserable having your stomach growling through your entire class or meeting. So, little monsters, I have a challenge! Eat a solid breakfast for a week and see if those wheels get turning faster. Your mornings will be (at least slightly) more bearable, and if you stick to it, eventually those muscles will show you how much they love you… and breakfast.

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About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.